Sunday, 25 August 2013

Walking on Jura: Paps

Following on from this post and intended as a resource for future visitors to the Isle of Jura, I'm sharing some details of the walks that I did on Jura this summer.  There is a bit of dearth of info on the web on walks on Jura so aiming to make this a bit of a reference point for others - hoping it will be useful!

This post is for a trip up the legendary Paps of Jura.  

Again, the best written guide for walking on the island I found is this one;

And of course you'll want the right OS map.  All set with this and assuming that you're based in Craighouse (the main settlement) you've got so many great options.  

You can see in my photo above two and a half of the Paps - I climbed the one in the middle - Beinn Shiantaidh (Holy / Sacred Mountain) which is the second highest (not that I'm counting!) on the island at 757m.  The hill to the right is Corra Bheinn which is a useful reference point for you throughout the walk.  

Much as this walk, head on up out of the village on the main road - going North.  You can either walk (it's about a 5km initial trudge), use the intermittent (albeit very reliable) bus service (NB, the bus service has been re-tendered - it's now run by Garelochhead Coaches not Alex Dunnachie as per the Argyll and Bute website - the link I give here is the right one!) or try to hitch a lift.  I just walked.  

You'll reach 'Three Arch Bridge', the road bend up to the left for about 1/2 a mile.  You then see a signpost to the left of the road indicating 'Evans Walk'.  Here you have to busk it a little bit - the path isn't anywhere as near as clear on the ground as it is on the map.  Basically, head NW as well as you can using the local landmarks especially the old crofters fence (it crosses the path at NR5457411.  Keep going until about NR539747 when the path start to head pretty much due North.  At this point you leave the main path (not that you'll notice much difference!) and strike out alone!  

You need to kind of loop South-ish around the base of Corra Bheinn and then go West-ish and North-ish up to the series of little lakes - called Lochanan Tana on the map.  I'm being deliberately vague here as there's no right or wrong way, just keep heading towards the huge mountain in front of you and keep thinking, "Am I really going to climb that?!".  I had my lunch about this point and rested up - had been going since about 8 so felt like a reasonable time to stop.  

This view from the top of the climb shows the little lochs to give you a sense of what I'm talking about
Go left/South of the little Lochs and you'll see a kind of path / river-bed start to snake up the mountain.  Use this if it's dry enough until it starts to go off too far West.  This is where you start to really busk it.  

You basically start scrambling hand over hand up the scree - jumping onto the little patches of heather for stability where you can.  This is hard work.  Really hard work.  You have to cover something like 400m of ascent like this so take you time.  You're looking at at least an hour of climbing.  I found my walking poles very useful at this point to lever myself up the side of the mountain.  There's no obvious route, just keep going up and on and you'll eventually reach the top.  There's something of a false summit but just keep going and you'll see the man-made cairn of rocks at the top clearly enough.  

Then you get to enjoy this frankly incredible view and an amazing sense of achievement - it might not be the highest mountain in Scotland (not by a long way) but it's got to be one of the most demanding to complete.  

Catch your breath, take a drink of water and start to think about how you're going to get down.  

I originally intended to pretty much retrace my steps, but I met up on the top a guy from Northern Ireland who I buddied up with for the rest of the day and we together descended pretty much directly South aiming for the Corran River below.  If anything, the descent is harder than the climb - the pressure on your knees (and bum if you end up falling...!) on the slippery scree is tough and you certainly won't be much quicker coming down than you were going up.  Keep pressing on and you'll eventually reach the river.  

This very midge-y so take some repellent but also revel in the fact that you're now pretty much on the flat - head more or less East keeping the river on your left (you can cross at many locations) and you'll get to the road at Three Arch Bridge which you'll have seen this morning.  Have a little dip in the river, certainly if it was as hot as the day I did this take a long drink of  water (it's perfectly safe) and start to think about how you'll cover the 5km or so back to Craighouse.  You'll deserve a whisky that night...

I hope this helps some walkers if they're considering a trip up the Paps.  It's not easy but definitely worth it.  Leave me a comment or email at alex [at] alexball dot co dot uk if you've got any questions.  

1. This is a Grid Reference for the OS map - see an explanation here 

1 comment:

  1. Hi! I did this exact climb this August.....hard work, but the stunning views, and sense of achievement make it so worth while!!